Compliance News in Review, September 15, 2016

Illinois tackles illegal drug promotion by Insys; the ABPI calls out two member companies for breaking promotion rules; the Australian legislature shines a light on corporate crime and Medicines Australia reports on payments to doctors; and AstraZeneca settles with the SEC…all in this edition of the Compliance News in Review.

You had to know it wasn’t far away when “pumpkin spice everything” started appearing on store shelves. After the long hot summer, the staff here at the Compliance News in Review couldn’t be more excited that football is back, and cooler days with it (hopefully). Whether you’re a fan of college, or the league where they play for pay, the season is short, but that’s what makes it so special. Yes. football is now our focus, but not so much that we won’t continue to provide you with all the life sciences compliance news fit to blog. So, strike up the band, we’re ready to take the field on this edition of the Compliance News in Review.

The Illinois Attorney General is lining up against Insys. The state has filed suit against the company for illegal marketing of its fentanyl drug. The drug is approved for treating pain in cancer patients, but the AG alleges the company has been marketing the drug for treatment of other types of pain. The company also encouraged doctors to write prescriptions for higher, more expensive doses of its product, despite FDA recommendations to use the lowest dose of opioids possible, according to the suit.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) threw a flag on Hospira and Napp Pharmaceuticals. The organization has accused the companies of breaking the rules regarding promotion of biosimilars. An investigation found that Napp Pharmaceuticals made inappropriate payments to physicians attending a meeting that was deemed an advisory board. Hospira allegedly invited U.K. doctors to attend a meeting outside the U.K., which was a not a genuine advisory board, where their drug was promoted.

The Australian legislature will huddle about the state of its anticorruption law. After two Australian companies were implicated in a case involving the bribery of foreign officials, a member of the Australian senate decided to relaunch a committee to address corporate corruption. The mission of the committee is to improve Australia’s response to corporate crime and the senator noted that compared to bribery laws in the U.S. and U.K., Australia’s law is inadequate.

The “score” regarding industry payments to physicians in Australia has been posted for public review. Between October 2015 and April 2016 doctors received $8.5 million from industry according to a report from Medicines Australia. The organization says this report provides patients with more information than ever before about the relationship between doctors and the industry, and that the organization’s “standards for ethical and transparency will improve the Australian health care system.”

Thanks to an “ineligible receiver” call from the officials at the SEC, AstraZeneca has agreed to pay $5.5 million to resolve FCPA related charges. The SEC alleged that the company did not have proper internal controls in place related to interactions with foreign officials – mostly healthcare providers – in its China and Russian subsidiaries. The agency contends that improper payments, in the form of cash, travel, and gifts, were documented as bona fide business expenses. While AstraZeneca did not admit or deny any wrongdoing, it did cooperate fully with the investigation.

This week’s review had a decidedly foreign flavor. Where compliance outside the U.S. is concerned, we recall a quote from Pulp Fiction (bet you never thought a Tarantino film would ever be referenced in blog post about compliance) when Vincent Vega is discussing the differences between European countries and the U.S. “They have everything there we have here. It’s just a little bit different.” The same can be said for compliance issues. While the principles or requirements related to drug promotion may be the same here and abroad for the most part, there are small differences between what is permitted in the U.S. and what is permitted around the world. Life sciences companies must train employees about practices that are appropriate when conducting business outside the U.S., particularly in their interactions with non-U.S. HCPs.

With that, the time has expired on this edition of the Compliance News in Review. Don’t forget to click that blue button on the right to “follow” our blog so you’ll receive notifications when we post new content.

Until next time, stay compliant and enjoy the games!

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